Programming note: Canucks-Sharks coverage starts tonight at 7 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
SAN JOSE – After their one-year debacle under head coach John Tortorella, the Canucks look like a playoff team again.
The Sedin twins continue to be highly productive. Free agent adds Radim Vrbata and Ryan Miller have thrived. Second line center Nick Bonino has impressed after he was a part of the Ryan Kesler deal. The defense still features solid guys like Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis.
It all adds up to a 9-4-0 team that has won five of its last six and sits tied for third overall in the NHL with 18 points.
Surprised, Todd McLellan?
“No, I’m not. When you look at their group and the talent that they have, I think it was an aberration last year, in my opinion. They can’t go that way twice. They’re proving it already. For me, it’s not a surprise at all.”
In a quirk to the schedule, the Sharks haven’t faced Vancouver in nearly a full calendar year. Last year, their four-game season series ended on Nov. 14.
San Jose is 6-1-0 in its last seven games against the Canucks, and 7-2-1 in the last 10.
“We always have tremendous battles against this team. They look rejuvenated, with the Sedins leading the team the way they are, and Miller in net. They look like the Canucks of old. We know that equates to a very tough task ahead of us.”
Miller, who leads the NHL with nine wins against just one loss (2.21 goals-against average, .917 save percentage), will oppose Antti Niemi (6-2-1, 2.49 GAA, .923 SP) in net.
“Miller gives them that stable backbone that can give a team a lot of confidence,” Joe Thornton said.
The Sharks will look to improve on their 2-2-0 home record before going right back out on the road again. A seven-game road trip starts on Saturday in Dallas and continues to Chicago, Florida, Tampa Bay, Columbus, Carolina and Buffalo. By the time the trip is through, San Jose will have played 16 of its first 21 games on the road.
The next home game after Thursday is on Nov. 20 vs. the Panthers.
Thornton said: “It would be nice to hopefully get two points here and go out on the road on a high note.”
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Bonino is expected to play for Vancouver, despite missing the morning skate. The former Sharks forward blocked a shot in the Canucks’ 5-2 win in Colorado on Tuesday.